Our goal is to inspire people more than manage them. We trust our teams to do what they think is best for White Rabbit — giving them lots of freedom, power, and information in support of their decisions. In turn, this generates a sense of responsibility and self-discipline that drives us to do great work that benefits the company.
As a hybrid-remote organization, we want each team member to be a manager of one.
A manager of one is someone who comes up with their own goals and executes them. They don’t need heavy direction. They don’t need daily check-ins. They do what a manager would do — set the tone, assign items, determine what needs to get done, etc. — but they do it by themselves and for themselves.
These people free you from oversight. They set their own direction. When you leave them alone, they surprise you with how much they’ve gotten done. They don’t need a lot of handholding or supervision.
How can you spot these people? Look at their history. Have they been self-sufficient at previous jobs? Have they defined their own role before? Have they started their own site/company before? Or done their own thing in some other way? Find someone with initiative and a budding entrepreneurial spirit. And then nurture it.
You want someone who’s capable of building something from scratch and seeing it through. When you find these people, it frees up the rest of your team to work more and manage less. —excerpt from Hire managers of one, 2008, Basecamp blog
No matter what role you serve, self-leadership is an essential skill needed to be successful as a manager of one.
As the informal, smooth-running organization starts to break down, pockets of chaos emerge, and the general outcry is to “grow up” and add traditional management and HR practices and processes in place to reduce the chaos. As rules and procedures proliferate, the value system evolves into rule following (i.e. that is how you get rewarded). If this standard management approach is done well, then the company becomes very efficient at its business model — the system is dummy-proofed, and creative thinkers are told to stop questioning the status quo. This kind of organization is very specialized and well adapted to its business model. Eventually, however, the business model inevitably has to change, and most of these companies are unable to adapt e.g. Blockbuster Video.
To avoid the rigidity of over-specialization, and avoid the chaos of growth, while retaining freedom, we work to have as simple a business as we can given our growth ambitions, and to keep employee excellence rising. We work to have a company of self-disciplined people who discover and fix issues without being told to do so.
We are dedicated to increasing employee freedom to fight the python of process. Some examples of how we operate with unusual amounts of freedom are:
We do not seek to merely preserve our culture — we seek to improve it. Every person who joins us helps to shape and evolve the culture further. We find new ways to accomplish more together.